What is in this article?:
- Restaurants compete for share of Thanksgiving table
- Chains get creative with traditional dishes
Boston Market, Luby's, White Castle and others have new promos surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday
The Thanksgiving feast is traditionally a celebration of home cooking, but restaurant chains are fighting to claim a bigger place at the American holiday table.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that about 14 million consumers will visit a restaurant for Thanksgiving this year, and another 16 million will take out some or all of the meal that day. Those estimates were generated last year, but NRA officials said the trends are not expected to change.
Eating in restaurants or bringing in takeout on Thanksgiving is “becoming part of the collective consciousness,” said Sara Bittorf, chief brand officer for Boston Market. “The holiday is not about the food you eat as much as getting together with family and friends. We feel like our mission is to help simplify life for our guests.”
That increasing consumer acceptance of restaurant meals for holidays, restaurant operators say, is translating to big sales around the holidays.
Last year, Cracker Barrel reported that Thanksgiving Day sales were the highest of any day in company history, though the chain did not reveal exact numbers. Luby’s Inc. also reported a significant increase starting the week before Thanksgiving last year, when the chain saw an additional $1.4 million in cafeteria sales as customers ordered and picked up holiday “Feasts To Go,” according to company filings.
At Boston Market, another chain that offers a full takeout feast as well as dine-in options, reported that last year’s sales on Thanksgiving day increased 13 percent overall. The chain sold more than 1 million pounds of, 2.6 million pounds of mashed potatoes, 639,000 pounds of stuffing and 180,000 gallons of gravy, the Golden, Colo.-based company said.
“We have been on a really positive trajectory. We’ve seen our holiday business growing every year,” said Bittorf. This year, the company is projecting a sales increase of 10 percent for dine in and 15 percent for takeout on Thanksgiving Day.
Catering bookings for Thanksgiving got a late start this year, which Bittorf blamed on the election and Hurricane Sandy. But this week, the chain saw record orders after sending out an email blast reminding customers that the holiday will soon be upon us.